Why should our family start immersion at the preschool level?
Research tells us that young children have an extraordinary capability to absorb another language. Experts estimate that by age 8-12, humans have already lost the ability to hear and say new sounds. Young brains are innately designed to acquire language. By taking advantage of the window of opportunity that exists between birth and adolescence, you allow your child to optimize his or her learning potential and speak the second language with a native accent. In addition to this benefit, studies show that young children who learn a second language enjoy many additional cognitive benefits, such as enhanced problem-solving skills, enhanced spatial relation skills, and heightened creativity. When children feel safe, comfortable, and enjoy their environment, they absorb their surroundings and learn naturally, without even realizing it.
What curriculum does your preschool use?
Mis Amigos Spanish Immersion Preschool uses an exclusive preschool curriculum program created internally by our staff. The curriculum features three main themes each month including the season and the study of a Spanish-speaking country. Each of them offers a variety of hands-on opportunities for exploration. While being immersed in Spanish language and culture, the children are also continually reinforcing their knowledge of letters, numbers, colors, and shapes through songs, stories, science, games, and play. Our teachers have vast experience with preschoolers from their home countries and are encouraged to use those experiences to add to the curriculum and classroom experience. Each classroom, no matter what age group, adheres to a wholly Spanish immersion environment with no English spoken.
What types of activities will my child participate in at Mis Amigos?
Many parents ask this question and the answer is simple: Mis Amigos is just like a “regular” preschool except that everything we do is spoken in Spanish! Similar to English-speaking preschools, our daily schedule includes things like circle time where we share in common experiences and discuss activities for the day and activity time when students develop fine motor skills and prepare for kindergarten. We play a lot—inside & outside. We enjoy lots of art projects, songs, games, storytime, and of course, snack time! And we do it all while learning and absorbing the Spanish language. Click here to receive the monthly newsletter from Mis Amigos Spanish Immersion Preschool.
What is the student to teacher ratio at Mis Amigos?
Our preschool classes are typically sized at no more than ten children for one teacher at Mis Amigos Spanish Immersion Preschool. Depending on the location and the classroom, that may mean that your child is in a class with one teacher and no more than nine other children or it might mean that they are in a larger group with two teachers. Either way, you can feel assured that your child will have a meaningful, varied, and fun learning experience with nurturing, attentive, and experienced educators.
Who are your teachers and where are they from? What are their qualifications and do they have teaching licenses for the state of Minnesota?
At Mis Amigos, we are committed to providing quality education for your child. We take great pride in our staff. While they come from various Spanish-speaking countries, they have many traits in common—they are always energetic, compassionate, creative, and well-spoken. Our staff are gifted educators and each one brings a different view of the world. Our teachers have degrees from their native countries and experience teaching young children. All of our teachers and staff have passed background checks and are licensed as preschool teachers by the MN Department of Human Services.
Is there any English spoken in the class?
Your child’s class is taught with complete immersion, which means no English will be spoken except in emergency situations. Once students enter the classroom, they are immersed in (surrounded by) the Spanish language, which aids in their successful grasp of the language. There is no need for concern if families do not understand Spanish as all communication with parents, guardians, and caregivers are conducted in English.
How will my child understand what is going on in class?
This is one of our most-asked questions at Mis Amigos Spanish Immersion Preschool. It is completely understandable for parents to wonder how their child will be able to follow along when they begin in an immersion classroom. Your child will understand what is going on in class and learn Spanish the same way they learned their first language—naturally. Your child’s teacher will communicate with your child in the same ways that you communicated with him or her when they were babies and unable to talk. Your child’s teacher will use lots of gestures and visual prompts including hand and body cues, inflection, and facial signals to make sure all children in class are able to follow along easily. Your child’s teacher will also utilize stories, songs, games, and play to make clear what is being conveyed. This style of teaching is known as Total Physical Response (TPR), and has been proven very successful in communicating in situations where the language is not understood. Parents are often surprised at how quickly their child catches on to what is being communicated. Young children look at the world with wide eyes, ears, and minds. They notice more than adults do because their brains truly are little sponges! They simply do not have the same inhibitions that adults tend to have about unfamiliar lessons & surroundings. They are natural mimics and have little fear in making mistakes which helps them absorb a second language much more quickly and easily.
Does my child need any prior exposure or knowledge of Spanish to be successful at Mis Amigos?
Absolutely no prior exposure or knowledge of Spanish is required. In fact, we assume that children coming to our classrooms are being exposed to Spanish and the immersion style of learning for the first time. However, we welcome children who do have prior knowledge of Spanish as they tend to be natural “tutors”. These children become helpers to the other friends in class, enhancing the overall classroom experience, building community as well as independence and self-esteem.
Do you go on field trips?
Yes! Just like “regular” preschools, we enjoy outings like taking a school bus to the apple orchard and the zoo. Sometimes we do cultural visits like a trip to Mercado Central and practice using our Spanish skills.
Do families need to know how to speak Spanish?
This is a very common question from touring families. Families do not need to speak Spanish in order for their children to be successful learners. This is where the process of immersion is especially valuable. Because your child is being spoken to exclusively in Spanish throughout their school day, they are getting enough exposure to the language to grasp and master Spanish without using it at home. Of course, practicing at home or with other Spanish speakers is always helpful, but research shows (and our experience confirms) that children with little or no reinforcement of Spanish at home are just as successful in immersion programs as those with native speakers at home. Moreover, families and caregivers do not need to speak Spanish to have good communications with teachers and other staff, either. We will always speak to parents & caregivers in English.
How much Spanish will my child retain or remember?
Since each child is unique in so many ways including language development, it is difficult to quantify exactly how much Spanish a child will retain. However, studies have shown that exposure to foreign language at a young age does create an advantage in learning a second or third language at adolescence and/or adulthood. So even if your child’s Spanish education ends when they leave Mis Amigos, his or her exposure to and familiarity with the Spanish language will help them to “pick it up again” later on. Research tells us that learning a foreign language adds additional cognitive benefits, too, some of which include: enhanced problem-solving skills, enhanced spatial relation skills, and heightened creativity.
Is the preschool associated with any public Spanish Immersion programs?
Mis Amigos is a private preschool and receives no public funding. Our programming, which was created exclusively for our school internally by our educators and staff, is supported solely by tuition fees. We do provide before- and after-school care for International Spanish Language Academy (ISLA), a charter school sponsored by the Hopkins School District but do not receive any public funding for that.
Will my child be prepared for Kindergarten?
This is an important question to ask of any preschool that you consider for your child’s education and development. Mis Amigos is just like a “regular” preschool except that it is all done in Spanish! Similar to English-speaking preschools, we are dedicated to educating your child in all ways which includes kindergarten preparation and development of fine motor skills as well as social and emotional skills. Much of our skill building is done though play, both inside and out. We enjoy lots of singing & dancing, art projects, games, reading & storytime, and of course, snacks! And we do it all while learning and absorbing the Spanish language.
Besides language development through immersion, what are some of the strengths of your school?
We love the community of families in our school, which we like to refer to as our “school family”. We appreciate how diverse our families are and delight in the learning that comes naturally through that. We truly are honored to get to spend time with your children, to be able to witness their brains opening up in new and numerous ways, and we appreciate so much what your children teach us every day.
If we decide to take the summer off from school and/or childcare, will we be charged or lose our space?
No. We try our best to work with a family’s ever-changing needs. You need not worry about losing your child’s place in class and do not have to pay tuition for the entire year.
Your school is located in a church. Is there a religious affiliation?
No, Mis Amigos is not religiously-affiliated. We love our spaces that happen to be in churches (because it is important to us to utilize existing spaces). Mis Amigos Spanish Immersion Preschool welcomes families of all faiths and backgrounds and is dedicated to embracing the diversity that makes our world rich.